Stranger Things: Chapter Four: The Body
July 17, 2016 10:11 AM - Season 1, Episode 4 - Subscribe

Refusing to believe Will is dead, Joyce tries to connect with her son. The boys give Eleven a makeover. Nancy and Jonathan form an unlikely alliance.

After following the police, the boys arrive at the quarry and see Will's body being pulled from the water. Mike, upset with El, runs off. In his basement, while yelling at El, she manages to make contact to Will using Mike's comm radio, and they hear him singing The Clash song "Should I Stay or Should I Go". Upon further discussion, the boys think Will is stuck in the "Vale of Shadows", a place of death and decay, a dark echo of a place.

The following morning, Mike calls Lucas and Dustin over to his home and they decide to head to Mr. Clarke and use his Ham Shack radio. After arriving at the school, the boys run into Mr. Clarke and are forced to attend an assembly regarding Will's death. Overhearing Troy, a class bully, and his friend laughing, Mike confronts them and pushes Troy. When Troy is about to attack, El, using her powers, stops him and makes him pee his pants.

Back in Mr. Clarke's room, the boys are able to make contact with Will. They overhear him talking to his mother saying he's afraid and the place he's in is dark and cold. At the same moment, Joyce, Will's mother, hears him through her living room wall and begins tearing at the wallpaper, revealing a flesh-like substance on the wall. On the other side she sees Will talking to her. Shortly after, she tells him to run when she hears the creature coming and grabs the axe to break through. After making a hole, it only reveals her front porch and Will is gone.

Chief Hopper, after confronting the State Trooper who found Will's body, goes to the morgue. Using a knife he confirms the body is just a stuffed mannequin and heads off to Hawkins Laboratory.
posted by Fizz (43 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Ha, so it may be Goonies for the win after all. Only adults confirmed dead after all.

Oh, the makeover montage. This one reminded me of that tumblr post that was going around about the con/heist movie trope of when they need the one tough chick of the gang to dress all sexy to pull off part of the job, and she always comes out looking gorgeous, but wouldn't it be great if instead she looked so unnatural/uncomfortable trying o go femme that the rest of the gang of guys just blanched and said, 'oh, no, you look terrible -- Bruno, you be the prostitute instead.' and big burly Bruno is like, 'yes! my time has come at last!' That first shot of Eleven in the wig gave me that same reaction.

And that other staple of 80's movies, casual homophobic insults. While I suppose it's good that they only have the bullies throwing the insults around, rather than the true 80's movie experience of the good guys doing it too, I think I'd rather they just skipped that part of the nostalgia trip entirely.
posted by oh yeah! at 3:27 PM on July 17, 2016 [16 favorites]


I think the eeeeevil scientists should totally just go legit - go to Hollywood and get an FX job. That was a waaayyy better dead body than any horror movie was putting out at the time.
posted by Gyre,Gimble,Wabe, Esq. at 5:31 PM on July 17, 2016 [6 favorites]


I got curious and did some Googling. The Vale of Shadows was apparently a thing in Forgotten Realms, but it's nothing like The Upside-Down.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:37 AM on July 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


The thing with the body was incredibly creepy to me. Like, just viscerally horrifying. The juxtaposition of the hyper-realistic corpse and the stuffed animal stuffing...AUGH. What a well done fake out though.
posted by yasaman at 1:06 PM on July 18, 2016 [8 favorites]


A few minor anachronisms for me...

the walkie talkie picking up a baby monitor -- in '83? dunno about that...

and was "anxiety" a thing?

At least a few people are talking to one another, it's a start

anybody else thinking the creature was created by EL?
posted by OHenryPacey at 12:45 AM on July 21, 2016


Apparently the first baby monitor came out in 1937, in response to the Lindbergh kidnapping. Who knew! The Fisher Price Nursery Monitor (which I had entirely forgotten, but OMG yes was everywhere at the time) is generally referred to as "early 80s, around the same time as cordless phones" but I did see a few on eBay and elsewhere with manufacture dates in 1983. So, since we have already seen cordless phones on the show, this is possible if the neighbors were early adopters.

'Anxiety' in general parlance seems more late 80s/early 90s, linked to the rise of Prozac and other SSRIs.

At Casa Culp we were confused by the whole makeover scene because to us, Millie Brown has such an androgynous face, especially with that buzz cut, that she just looked like a boy in a dress and would have been more convincing/less conspicuous passed off as a fourth boy in the gang.
posted by Flannery Culp at 5:36 AM on July 21, 2016 [4 favorites]


I've been watching the show wondering how, with such a large cast, they were going to get everybody on board with the fact that supernatural shit is going on. I like that pretty much all the main characters call came around, on their own, at about the same time in this episode -- it was deftly handled, and now the show can move forward with them partnering to solve the riddle.
posted by maxsparber at 10:42 AM on July 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


> and was "anxiety" a thing?

Wikipedia says Prozac started being prescribed starting 1986 (first characterized 1972) so 'anxiety' and a medication for it was likely a thing. I remember 'popping prozac' as definitely a thing in the late 80's even as a grade schooler.

Paradoxically, cocaine was big and both being high and coming down (and withdrawal) had some overlap with anxiety, too.

Oops - what I meant was "2nding Flannery Culp." Incidentally...

> would have been more convincing/less conspicuous passed off as a fourth boy in the gang.

But then you might have lost out on the boy nerds trying to figure out girl clothes montage!
posted by porpoise at 8:23 PM on July 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


True, although Mike seemed surprisingly competent with makeup. On the other hand it would have given the bullies more room for nastiness. "Who's this freak? You miss Will so much you already replaced him?"

(... because 80s teen bullies need my help being terrible. I blame the RNC)
posted by Flannery Culp at 10:30 AM on July 22, 2016


Millie Brown has such an androgynous face, especially with that buzz cut, that she just looked like a boy in a dress and would have been more convincing/less conspicuous passed off as a fourth boy in the gang.

In the first episode, I wondered how anyone knew she was a girl. Pre-puberty, there's not much difference between girls and boys besides presentation (hair, clothing).
posted by AFABulous at 2:46 PM on July 24, 2016 [18 favorites]


I like that pretty much all the main characters call came around, on their own, at about the same time in this episode -- it was deftly handled, and now the show can move forward with them partnering to solve the riddle.

This is one of the best things about the show, IMO. They plausibly avoided the "why don't they just talk to each other" trope but still made sure that all the main characters figured out the weirdness about the same time, so we can proceed with everyone on an equal footing.
posted by tobascodagama at 8:51 PM on July 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


I got through episode 4 last night and and loving this show so far. I do feel like I am pretty much the laser-targeted demographic in terms of its setting, production style, and protagonists, though. In 1983 I was a nerd kid a year or two younger than the ones on the show, and those opening credits and synth music (right down to the simulated film dust and scratches) make me feel like I'm staying up too late and watching something that I know is going to give me nightmares, but I can't help myself. And that font! It makes me want to time travel to a Walden Books and look at the Stephen King paperbacks.

At the same time it gives me a little bit of the same lonely feeling I remember from watching kid/teen movies of the time period, because I lived in a far-flung rural town and didn't really have the whole friendly-neighborhood / friends-within-bicycle-distance / town-with-an-actual-downtown experience that's such a common element of them. And because the bullies/scumbag big kids always felt so true to life.

I wonder what the reception is from people born well before or well after the early 1970s; How much of the love for this show is visceral nostalgia trip vs. universally compelling Steven Spielberg/Stephen King mashup homage? Could one even be separated from the other?
posted by usonian at 9:03 AM on July 26, 2016 [9 favorites]


Well, I was literally born about two months before the show's opening scene, and I dug the hell out of everything.

I think the cultural delta between the early 80s and the early 90s was small enough that a lot of things felt familiar. By the mid-90s, when I was the same age as the kid protagonists, the beginnings of mass internet access and hip-hop's reach into the mainstream, as well as the endorkening of pop culture, had changed things unrecognisably. But I still remember the cheap wood paneling and even rotary phones, not to mention the goddamned font that was on literally every non-cyberpunk SFF and horror novel. And, perhaps more importantly, the paranoid zeitgeist that accepted that, sure, the government was probably doing a lot of crazy paranormal stuff. (Thanks, X-Files.)

But the fact that I connected with this so strongly I think suggests that there is a universally compelling component to this story. It's also just really good.
posted by tobascodagama at 10:44 AM on July 26, 2016 [3 favorites]


Well, I was literally born about two months before the show's opening scene, and I dug the hell out of everything.

And I was born 20 years before the show's opening scene and it all resonates like crazy for me, too. Part of it is the 32-year-old Duffer twins, as they've noted in interviews, growing up on earlier material themselves.

They plausibly avoided the "why don't they just talk to each other" trope

I had the same thought: everyone had a good reason for why they weren't sharing info. Nancy not wanting to tell her mom she'd had sex, e.g. The whole thing just feels smarter than it should be.
posted by mediareport at 4:09 AM on July 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


I saw the makeover scene not as prettying up the tough girl, but as a call back to the kids dressing up ET to take him out on Halloween.
posted by MsVader at 8:30 PM on July 31, 2016 [24 favorites]


We had a baby monitor in '89 when my son was a baby and it wasn't any kind of cutting edge tech at that point. I'm pretty sure that they were around six years earlier. They're just cuter walkie-talkies.
posted by octothorpe at 7:15 PM on August 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


I was 9 in 1983 and this is really giving me flashbacks to that time. The teenagers especially, I had older siblings that age and they were so cool and had old beat up cars and policed my taste in music and it's really just perfect.

As for the phones, even when you had to get them from the phone company you'd have an old one hanging around somewhere. The cord was unrealistically untangled though.
posted by fshgrl at 10:36 PM on August 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


Mike and Nancy's parents are completely clueless to not hear all the extra kids in their house. I know they are tuned out, but wouldn't they notice El in the basement at some point?
posted by Sukey Says at 7:22 PM on August 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


I wonder what the reception is from people born well before or well after the early 1970s; How much of the love for this show is visceral nostalgia trip vs. universally compelling Steven Spielberg/Stephen King mashup homage? Could one even be separated from the other?

Born in '64 and it works both ways for me. King started publishing books when I was about the age of the boys--Carrie came out in '74, 'Salem's Lot (which this show owes a particular debt to in the search for Will, which echoes the disappearance of a boy early in that book) in '75--and the show owes probably as much to those early books as it does to 80s work such as IT and Firestarter--and Spielberg similarly did relevant work, particularly Close Encounters of the Third Kind, in that decade.

Also, the revelations of this episode mean that Barb has a chance, and if I find out differently in the back half of the season, I will be pissed.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:27 PM on August 10, 2016 [7 favorites]


I'm barely an 80s baby and I am loving the heck out of this show. I didn't think it would be for me as I don't have any fond nostalgia for 80s stuff and I generally avoid scary shows as much as possible, but this is just so well made. I can't wait to continue watching!

I was so shocked when they pulled out his body, it didn't even occur to me it was fake.
posted by liquorice at 7:32 PM on August 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


The boys don't actually discuss the Vale of Shadows until the next chapter.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 2:27 PM on August 14, 2016


Slowly catching up on this, after my initial binge I've forced myself to slow down and save watching ST for when I doing the ironing or something else, to make a mindless chore more bearable.

Mike and Nancy's parents are completely clueless to not hear all the extra kids in their house. I know they are tuned out, but wouldn't they notice El in the basement at some point?

I'm making the huge assumption that this will happen at some point. But it's also playing well on the trope a lot of the movies about kids these ages use - that the parents (well, most adults) are well-intentioned, but basically clueless and out of it and unaware of what is going on. I did like the fact that in the first couple of episodes, Mike's plan is to involve his parents and he only shies away when El convinces him otherwise. The kids are at the awkward moment of still trusting their parents but also breaking away into independence, and the show is playing that fairly well I think - at a crisis point, the parents will become aware/get involved and largely be ok at it. I'm liking Nancy's mom consistent efforts at trying to say she's available and open and willing to listen, while still being largely oblivious to things. Or else I'm being set up for her getting confronted with things and then losing her shit rather than being supportive. I liked her response to learning Nancy had slept with Steve, though - no flying off the handle, just an attempt to reach out.

I had the same thought: everyone had a good reason for why they weren't sharing info. Nancy not wanting to tell her mom she'd had sex, e.g. The whole thing just feels smarter than it should be.

I was really frustrated with the Nancy/police scene - where the two idiot deputies got focused on her sex life rather than the missing girl, because I wanted to scream at the idiot men - and then really liked Nancy just telling her mom she had slept with Steve afterwards because that didn't matter, what mattered was Barb being missing. And I liked that Mom didn't over-react. I could get her not wanting to tell Mom in front of Deputies Tweedledum and Tweedledee, but I also liked that she was just going to get that issue out of the way so people could get focused on the bigger problem.

Much less happy with Nancy and Mike's older brother joining forces, though. Nancy is being a little too nice to stalker with a camera guy.
posted by nubs at 10:16 AM on August 15, 2016 [3 favorites]


I have a quibble with a part of the AV Club review:

The conveniently inconsistent attention of adults is one such failing. Where are the grown-ups of Hawkins High School when Mike faces off with his bully? As a crowd gathers around them, loudly gasping in unison, where are the principal, the teachers, the grief counselor brought in to attend to these kids? Afterward, the camera reveals they’re standing by, just yards away. The show’s reality can withstand all the fleshy supernatural portals and special-effects monsters and pee-squeezing telekinetics the writers throw at it, but it’s hard to suspend disbelief in even mundane realities when they driven purely by the need of the plot.

I was probably about a year older than these kids in 1983, and it was also a year after I was regularly getting the crap kicked out of me by a gang of girls in my gym class, and the similarly-clueless gym teachers were similarly close by and still never knew it themselves. So the AV club finds fault and asks "where are the grown-ups when Mike faces off with his bully", but I know from experience that "where are the grown-ups" is one that Mike and his friends probably were asking themselves when the bullies kicked them around prior to this. So that "inconsistent attention" isn't a bug, it's an accurate detail.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:50 PM on August 17, 2016 [14 favorites]


So the AV club finds fault and asks "where are the grown-ups when Mike faces off with his bully", but I know from experience that "where are the grown-ups" is one that Mike and his friends probably were asking themselves when the bullies kicked them around prior to this. So that "inconsistent attention" isn't a bug, it's an accurate detail.

I also feel it's another layer of the parallel worlds/different layers thing the show is working with; the kids already have drawn a parallel world by giving different areas their own names, and the fact that the adults and the kids move in overlapping but slight different worlds is just another way of reinforcing that. Which is not to say I disagree with your comment at all; adults are sometimes very bad at noticing what is going on with kids - and there's the converse, of the adults suddenly noticing what kids are doing, usually at the worst time.
posted by nubs at 9:45 AM on August 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


Much less happy with Nancy and Mike's older brother joining forces, though. Nancy is being a little too nice to stalker with a camera guy.

I didn't get a stalker vibe from Jonathan. He was in the woods looking for clues about where his brother was, and was taking pictures as part of processing what happened/hoping to see more through the camera. It was already established that he was a good photographer, earlier when he and Joyce were looking through photos for the missing poster.

He happened upon the party and made the stupid decision to take pictures. He knows he shouldn't have taken them, he said so to Nancy. But he didn't go into the woods with the specific purpose of stalking Nancy and taking pictures of her.
posted by cooker girl at 6:40 AM on August 22, 2016 [9 favorites]


I particularly loved the sheriff with the body - the hesitation and false starts with the knife. Just so clearly "am I going to believe the weird? am I about to be That Crazy Asshole?" and suddenly he's in the weirdness up to his eyeballs and he's stepped off the sidewalk and into traffic and nothing has changed for him but everything has changed.
posted by rmd1023 at 11:41 AM on August 22, 2016 [11 favorites]


> and was "anxiety" a thing?

Wikipedia says Prozac started being prescribed starting 1986 (first characterized 1972) so 'anxiety' and a medication for it was likely a thing.


Anxiety's been a "thing" since at least mid-century, but it wasn't treated with Prozac, obviously which first wasn't around and then for a long time was considered somewhat extreme and folks were wary about it. It was mainly diagnosed in women and it was mainly treated with pills, things like Valium.

Born 1969. Agree with the Empress about "Where were the grownups" - bullying was not a huge concern. Fighting was not allowed officially but beating-ups and fights happened all the time - the main interest of school faculty and principals was in just restoring order, not coming to a compassionate and peaceful resolution. You were supposed to learn to defend yourself and/or learn to stay out of fights, plain and simple. And I sincerely don't think bringing in grief counselors was a thing until after Columbine.
posted by Miko at 3:26 PM on August 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


I think it started a little before that, at least in some form - it was parodied in "Heathers", as I recall.
posted by rmd1023 at 6:01 PM on August 22, 2016


With Hopper's lie about celebrating his daughter winning the spelling bee, we get glimpses of what his daughter might have been like. I wonder how much we'll learn of her, or if she'll be a ghost on the border of our knowing.

"Remember, if anyone sees us, look sad." And the whole quickly patched together cover-story for El, aka Eleanor from the Bad Place, aka Sweden, where it's cold. Sub zero cold. Oh boys!

Now the show gets into X-Files conspiracy territory, and I love it all the more. Barb's car disappeared, and the body is full of stuffing.

And now, the music:
posted by filthy light thief at 11:36 AM on August 24, 2016 [4 favorites]


Halfway through the show, and we are loving the shit out of this.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 8:23 PM on September 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


Surprised nobody else has pointed this out, but surely it's deliberate that this episode shares the same name as a an episode of another show (albeit not in the correct decade for ST's usual references) where the main characters all have to learn to accept that a major supporting character's death was both real thing that really happened and also fundamentally non-supernatural in nature. Like an upside-down version of this episode.
posted by tobascodagama at 1:04 PM on September 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


It's also the name of the short story that Stand By Me was based on.
posted by octothorpe at 1:57 PM on September 7, 2016 [9 favorites]


For a long time I predicted that 11 would actually be Hopper's missing, not-really-dead daughter. The cancer scene seems to argue otherwise. But does it? Faux corpses and mysterious science, shaved heads...
posted by Miko at 8:58 PM on September 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


I always thought that. I still sort of think it.
posted by maxsparber at 8:28 AM on September 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


The "anxiety" wording was easily the most jarring thing out of the whole show for me because a teenager using a clinical term to frame someone else's behavior as okay was definitely not a thing in 1983.
posted by P.o.B. at 5:14 AM on December 1, 2016 [1 favorite]


Which character talks about anxiety again? I don't recall.
posted by tobascodagama at 5:37 AM on December 1, 2016


Jonathan, Will's older brother. It was an offhand remark during a conversation with his mother. Sounded odd and a little out of place, but nothing that ruined the show.
posted by P.o.B. at 4:58 PM on December 1, 2016


Ah. From one of the Byerses, it kinda makes sense to me. I got the impression Joyce had some some therapy before, after, or during her divorce. Either her or Will, with all the bullying he goes through.
posted by tobascodagama at 6:19 PM on December 1, 2016


Or a wizard did it. It was still jarring and wasn't a thing kids did back then.
posted by P.o.B. at 10:20 PM on December 1, 2016


I feel like in the 80s people would have been talking about "stress" more than anxiety.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 7:35 AM on December 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


Mike and Nancy's parents are completely clueless to not hear all the extra kids in their house. I know they are tuned out, but wouldn't they notice El in the basement at some point?

My wife was also thrown by that a bit, "A family of five, shouldn't mom be going downstairs to do laundry all the time?"
posted by fings at 7:58 AM on December 5, 2016 [4 favorites]


I would have been 4 in 1983, but the nostalgia fits like a warm blanket. Part of it might be growing up in the midwest, culture changed slower, but also 80s movies and the like played over and over in heavy rotation on cable so I was bound to be exposed to all of it.
posted by drezdn at 5:35 AM on March 31 [1 favorite]


Super late pass.

This show is so cliche that every reveal is a non reveal, like you can complete all the characters sentences, you can call out every twist like "run" or will's body being fake etc.

BUT it's so GOOD. It's so well done and the last 30 years of media has spent all this effort subverting these tropes that playing them straight feels fresh and novel.
posted by French Fry at 2:17 PM on August 7 [2 favorites]


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